WA Notify

The WA Notify app, shown on an Android phone, sends notifications to people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, but Washington does not have reliable data on how many times the app has been used to alert people or on how many people have been alerted. (David Gutman / The Seattle Times)

We all know the list.

Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Stay home as much as possible. Avoid groups of people who are not in your immediate household.

Yes, the list might make us chafe. We’re fatigued from fighting COVID-19. But we soldier on; at least most of us do, because we know it’s worth the fight despite myriad inconveniences.

That’s one of the great things about Washington Exposure Notifications — more commonly known as WA Notify. It’s a smartphone app that, when activated, uses technology to warn users that they might have come into contact with an infected person.

The app uses Bluetooth to detect proximity of other nearby phones. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are given a code to enter into the app, which then sends an alert to other phone owners who had come within 6 feet of the infected person. The app launched in November and had about 1.6 million users as of late December, The Seattle Times reported.

The app is designed to protect privacy and be unobtrusive. “Once you enable it, it’s quietly working in the background of your phone,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy health secretary for COVID-19 response statewide. “If you don’t hear anything, that is not a sign that anything’s wrong. No news is good news.”

Three important notes: First, like all other tools on the COVID-fighting list above, WA Notify is not a panacea — rather, it’s another weapon in the arsenal.

Second, it’s not designed to feed information to Big Brother. The codes and alerts are anonymous. Amy Reynolds with the state Department of Health said that data-gathering is extremely limited “because WA Notify is privacy-

preserving and doesn’t associate verification codes with individual cases.”

Third, the WA Notify app is free.

To summarize: It’s an easily accessed smartphone app that reveals possible contact with an infected person. It’s one more option for fighting the pandemic and protecting our health. It’s free, and it’s private.

Can you think of any good reasons to not use it?

Neither can we.

Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Greg Halling, Joanna Markell and Bruce Drysdale.